How Mike Tyson Helped Me Get Sober
You Win. I lose. I win.
It was the late ’80’s.
I was in deep trouble, but I didn’t know what the trouble was. Alcohol can put some incredibly effective blinders on. My blinders were Grade A.
I was The Bewildered One. I couldn’t get it straight, going from daylight to blackout in a flash. Every time I imagined that I’d caught my breath, I woke up hours or days later in a state of confusion.
I made an appointment at the Alcoholism Council of Greater New York.
There were a lot of questions, both from the counselor and in the literature she gave me.
How much do I drink? Do I notice patterns? Have I lost jobs? Have I damaged relationships? Do I feel remorse after drinking heavily?
Have I had blackouts?
I thought that one was silly. Of course I had blackouts. What did that prove? My thinking was, if you drank as much as I did you’d have a blackout, too. It’s only natural.
Despite this investigation, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
I knew that my life was spiraling, and that I felt despair. But I didn’t see that alcohol and drugs had taken me to this point. And that it had me by the throat.
Denial can be straight out and loud, but it can also be subtle and deceptive. Mine was more on the deceptive side, as I told myself I was really digging in and trying to discover what was wrong.
A psychotherapist was helping me, but the elevator was only going down.
Addicted to alcohol? Give me a freakin’ break, man. This is bullshit.
But then I came across the idea of surrender. I gave it a lot of thought. It felt as thought I’d been at war with myself. Consuming so much liquid, had, ironically, made me dehydrated in mind and body. It was a desert inside.
Surrender. Throw in the towel. Give up.
It all sounded like losing.
I considered that alcohol is a beast, and that it had taken down many people I loved and admired.
And then I thought of Mike Tyson.
In 1985, Mike Tyson had knocked out 15 heavyweight boxers in a row.
By 1989, his legend was secure. He was straight-up scary. There was a lot of concern that he may kill someone in the ring.
He was a beast, just like alcohol.
I imagined Mike in the ring in a gym, sweating, warmed up and pissed off, with me watching him spar from ringside.
Suddenly his glare is on me, and he’s calling me to get some gloves on and get into the ring with him. He’s taunting, bullying, calling me names.
Not for a split second do I consider getting in the ring with him. I’ve never boxed, and it would be like getting into a cage with a dozen hungry lions.
“No thanks, Mike. You’re the champ.”
“C’mon. Show us what you got.”
“Mike - I surrender. You’re the best. You’re the champ.”
And it hit me like a ton of bricks. To go back into a bar where the beast resides, and order a drink, was the same as me taking Mike’s challenge.
Thinking of getting slammed by Mike Tyson’s fists made the reality of my alcoholism come clear. The beast wins, always.
I surrendered. And I walked away, alive.